Each and every day, countless files from around the globe are newly digitized, catalogued, uploaded, organized, shared, or otherwise published to the web. Take for example the online newspaper archive services. Even though the Newspapers.com database (the largest online newspaper archive) currently features 20,700 newspapers from the 1700s–2000s, it is still adding millions of new pages to its archive every month! Similarly, NewspaperArchive.com is currently adding one newspaper page every second, which equates to over 80,000 images a day or 2.5 million pages per month! With this in mind, every now and then I like to search around and see what new items have popped up.
Recently I was able to locate some new articles I’d never seen before about Trixie, related to her work as a journalist. I was delighted to find an October 17, 1943 Milwaukee Journal article entitled “The Adventures of WTMJ’s Trixie,” where the writer provided an overview of a day in the life of Trixie as Wisconsin’s first female radio news writer.
I also learned that Trixie traveled to Hollywood in the 1940s to personally invite movie stars to Milwaukee’s 1946 100th birthday “Centurama” celebration (see article “Throngs Turn Out for ‘Two Guys’ – Stars Arrive for Fliers Meet.”) While on the Warner Bros. lot, she apparently rode around on the handlebars of Bob Hope’s bicycle.
According to the Milwaukee County Historical Society, the Milwaukee Centurama was comprised primarily of a 31-day festival near the current site of the War Memorial on the lakefront. Concerts, food and entertainment made the festival one of Milwaukee’s most memorable.
During this celebration, I also learned that Trixie helped organize a private gathering for 300 private pilots with special guest Tyrone Power (see article “Private Fliers Get Together, 300 at Gathering“). Power was a big movie star in the Golden Age of Hollywood. From the 1930s to the 1950s, he appeared in dozens of films, according to Wikipedia, and was often cast in “swashbuckler roles or romantic leads.” From the above-referenced article, he is quoted as saying: “I’m delighted to be here. I want to thank Trixie Gehrung for inviting me. She’s the reason I’m here tonight.”
For the historical value, below follows the full text of the article about Trixie’s work as a radio news writer. I felt this article not only provided a good description of Trixie’s character, but it also gave a fascinating historical look into the history of journalism and the heyday of radio news.
The Adventure’s of WTMJ’s Trixie
by Bea J. Pepan
Milwaukee Journal | 10/17/47
“Just back from a trip to New York, Beatrice “Trixie” Gehrung, woman news writer at Radio City, is still quietly glowing over the part she played in a television experiment at NBC‘s Radio City.
As the story goes, Trixie was touring the NBC studios, comparing them mentally with Milwaukee’s own Radio City and enjoying her post man’s holiday immensely.
Her tour party came to a studio where a demonstration of television operation had been scheduled. But at the 11th hour a live subject was lacking. Miss Gehrung, with her televisable black and white dress, be so kind as to sit in? Without hesitation, or even a moment to experience the qualms of stage fright, Trixie acquiesced. Her directions were to talk about anything she desired for six minutes.
She was placed before a backdrop of forest scenery, facing one wall on which was placed a small Televisor, comparable to the lens of the camera. Flooding the room and the subject were blinding lights, as on a movie set. Add a signal chicks he began to speak about Milwaukee’s Radio City. From the studio in which she stood, her picture was flashed upon a screen in front of the audience in the adjoining room, just as slides are flashed on any screen. And sitting in the world’s most famous radio center, the party saw and heard a lecture on the Milwaukee facilities of WTMJ, 1000 miles away.
Unusual experiences seem to be Trixie’s lot in life. And traveling? She’s covered a godly mileage and her 20 odd years, living in big towns and small from Coast to Coast. Born in Denver, Colorado, she found herself in Tampa, Florida, at the age of two, and shortly thereafter the family moved to Hollywood. Her father’s profession, acting, accounts for the steady changes in scenes. On the screen he was known as Gene Gehrung; on the stage he was known as Judd Morgan.
Misfortune over took the family in California – the death of Trixie‘s mother. So from the West Coast Trixie and her brother came to the middle west, to Oshkosh, where they went to school. Trixie spent two years in Oshkosh state teachers, but got her degree at Wisconsin University in Madison.
Ambitions? Trixie had many at different stages of her youth, but finally settled on journalism. And she made up her mind to combine newspaper work with radio if possible.
With this in mind she set out for Tomahawk, Wisconsin. After graduation from Wisconsin, she picked up all around newspaper experience editing the Tomahawk leader. Then Trixie took a job as announcer and news writer for station WSAU, Wausau, Wisconsin. Still climbing the ladder she moved onto Radio City, Becoming WTMJ’s first woman news writer.
Here is the radio news riders daily routine: Trixie’s day starts at 5 AM, continuing through until 2 PM, which means rolling out at 4:30 AM daily, dressing in 10 minutes flat, whizzing through breakfast, mounting her bicycle and arriving at Radio City at 5 o’clock promptly. Bicycling in Trixie’s case is not only a convenience but a necessity. Bus service has a tendency to be erratic at that hour.
Trixie’s first duty each morning is to clear the teletype machines of all associated press copy sorting it in piles on her desk according to Washington news, London news, War base news, news from Southwest Pacific, miscellaneous matters, human interest stories, feature stories, local news, etc. That takes about half an hour. As she sorts all this she’s planning her first broadcast, five minutes long, at 6:05 AM. A sustaining program, meaning a broadcast without commercial announcements, generally takes about 75 lines. Sponsored news broadcasts take less depending upon how much time is given over to “plugs.”
All copy news writers hand to announcers must be practically letter perfect. Each WTMJ-W55M announcer spiels at a different rate of speed. Don Stanley usually covers about 55 lines of copy in five minutes. Bob Shannon takes about 48. Words and sentences for news broadcasts must be brief and concise, which naturally throws out those lovely nine and 10 letter words like “diaphanous,” which look good in print but are devilish pitfalls for fluffs.
So it goes throughout the day, the machines pounding out a study ream of AP copy and Trixie writing news broadcasts for 6:30, 7, 7:30, 7:55, etc. … until 2 o’clock, when Jack Kruger takes over.
Trixie says her work doesn’t get dull. She’ll never forget the day when, wearing a very precarious pair of French sandals, she tore into the studio where one of the announcers was on the air awaiting the late baseball scores she was carrying. Trixie skated and fell just inside the door and it banged behind her. Its incidents like these that can start an announcer off on a laughing jag with disastrous results. Trixie hates to recall the moments she spent sitting on that studio floor, trying desperately to regain her composure and stifle the laughter welling within her.”